“I’ve always been an explorer, which translate to always leaving,” says Mirah. The indie pop singer/songwriter (best known for her work on K Records) is referring to one of the reasons for the five year gap in-between her fourth studio LP, 2009’s (a)spera, and her fifth, Changing Light, which is out this Tuesday, May 13th, on her own imprint, Absolute Magnitude Recordings. The writing and recording of the album actually saw her transitioning her home base from Portland to San Francisco to New York, where she currently resides. However, she implies that her current process is likely more responsible for the time frame than anything else.
“This one took a lot longer than I ever expected. But at this point in my career I don’t have anyone working on it with me. It’s all me and I guess my own cycle is like five years long. Although I had never yet DJed, I realized my DJ name was DJ Who Put Me In Charge? But I think I did a pretty good job putting everything together by myself and putting everything out by myself. Mirah’s not the quickest at putting things out. But I think it’s all worth it. It’s like you’re really happy to wait for five years because it’s a really good record. If it didn’t take that long, it wouldn’t have been the record that it is. It was the hardest record to sequence that I’ve ever made because the songs are all really strong – not that I’ve ever been a filler-maker – but in the past there have been obvious standouts and you think, ‘Maybe people won’t get this song, so I’ll put it between these two,’ but with this album a lot of the songs could have easily been the opening track.”
Although she admits that the album did take a bit of time to make, she also feels inclined to comment on the tendency of critics and fans to make more of this kind of thing than is usually warranted: “I think it’s interesting when you haven’t released anything and people are like, ‘They disappeared for a number of years,’ and I’m like ‘I disappeared?’ It’s funny, the difference between my perception of my existence, compared to other people’s perception of my existence.”
Changing Light is, technically, a break-up record, although it does come out proudly on the other side. The album, which is just over 43-minutes would seem to capture Mirah’s emotional transition over the past five years. The album boasts the same quirky and experimental (i.e. “intellectual”) indie pop Mirah’s been making for nearly two decades now, only slightly more refined and dynamic… It’s very apparent that, at this point in her career, she’s not even a little bit worried about fitting into any one genre or “scene,” while still maintaining a completely cohesive work. I joke with her about how it seems impossible that she’s been doing this for as long as she actually has, and remembering my very first love, well over a decade ago, singing me songs of hers whenever we were in the car. She laughs and confesses that time does, indeed, seem to have gotten away, but that she’s more comfortable now than ever.
“It’s hard to believe I’m that old [laughs]. I’ll tell you about strange things. Age is a strange thing. It’s so funny how age changes perspective, but it’s actually only gotten better. Everything that was good about my twenties is even better in my thirties. I’ve gotten to grow up in my own, juvenile way.”
Mirah is about to kick off a string of US tour dates, which will have her stopping at Johnny Brenda’s on Tuesday, May 20th. She tells me that she’s recently reconsidered her whole notion of performing live and that these upcoming dates will be quite different from those she’s become known for.
“I have been touring, recording, releasing music since 1998/1999 and I have always relied pretty heavily on my guitar as a songwriting tool. And then I’ll flesh everything out in the studio, so the songs sounded like more than just guitar and vocals and for the first eight years I toured I just played guitar and sang the songs. I never tried to build a band or recreate the songs as they were on the album. But then, more recently, I did start wanting to have more sonic possibilities and options onstage. I never emphasized performing the songs true to their recordings, but for this recording and the live dates, I thought that we should just play the whole album and try to make it sound like the album, so I put a band together who could pretty much do that. I want to play the whole record. I’ve never done that. I’ve never played all the songs from an album at a live show, but I feel like the songs are really strong. I feel really connected to all of those recordings. I have a really intimate relationship with this record.”
Although Mirah is best known for her time in Olympia and Portland, she’s actually from our neck of the woods. She spent her “formative years” just a stone’s throw from us: “For non-Philadelphians, I say I’m from Philly but, for the sake of Philadelphians, I grew up on the Mainline. I went to a suburban high school, Lower Marion High School.” And while she’s yet to return to Philly for a long-term stay, she apparently still has quite a fondness for the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
“I like the size of Philadelphia and the Schuylkill River has gotten really user-friendly, which it wasn’t when I was there. I think part of what makes the city great is access to the waterways, green access to the waterways. And I like that Philadelphia’s not snobby, which is great. It’s not, is it? I appreciate that a lot.”